Wednesday 28 December 2016

Ringed Neck Goose anyone !

After Storm Barbara and Conor (gust at 105 mph at Scatness) it was good to finally get out even though it was dull. At this time of year there is very little light for photography in Shetland, perhaps just a couple of hours when its dull

First was a visit to West Voe of Sumburgh where i was expecting a lot of seaweed and debris on the beach but very little could be found. Out in the bay Shag (118) Long Tailed Duck (8) Goldeneye (4) Red Breasted Merganser (4) and a lone Redshank on the beach.

At Grutnesss the pool was at a high level which attracted Mallard (6) Teal (2) Redshank (8) Turnstone (6) and out in the bay Shag (38) Long Tailed Duck (8) Gt Northern Diver, GT BB(2) Herring Gull (12) Fulmar (6) and Sanderling (1) and Turnstone (8) on the beach

Heading down to Spiggie around 250 Greylag fed in rough water filled grassland and one with a orange collar and ring (see photo)

Apparently this was ringed in Shetland and is a 4 year old bird that has been seen around the Spiggie area before

Further north Whooper Swan (4) Wigeon (250) Teal (15) Goldeneye (12) Tufted (22) Moorhen (12) and a large Peregrine falcon made several dives at the duck without success and moved north. Also Lapwing (48) Curlew (46) Turnstone (12) all took flight when the Falcon flew over.

Around 20 Common Gull, 10 Herring and a couple of GBB gulls kept coming and going

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Have a very happy New Year and thanks for visiting this blog.

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Mammals & more

Otters are a firm favourite of mine and we are very fortunate in Shetland to have the largest population in Europe

Shetlanders are just as keen to see otters as visitors and to help protect them from mad motorist they have put up signs in key places where otters may be run down.

The highest density of otters can be found in the North and west mainland and on the islands, however with a bit of patience you can also see them in the south mainland. 

 These otter prints were photographed down at St Ninian's isle but could well have been taken on a number of beaches. There are more dogs it seems on the beaches in the south and Otters and Dogs don't mix so they are a bit more wary

There seem to be a good number of Mountain Hares about, these can be seen anywhere in the North & West mainland down to Sandwick area. 

Moorland is the preferred habitat and in sunny weather they can easily be seen in winter sitting out taking in the rays. It helps that they have a white coat during winter so they normally stand out again the dark heath clad hills

Seems strange seeing a hedgehog at this time of year but we met one the other night crossing the road at Tingwall, no doubt encouraged out with this very unseasonable warm weather, it was 11 degrees that night.

We never got to see them but it was good to hear that possibly 4/6 Humpback Whales had spent around 3 weeks off the coast of Yell. I met Hugh Harrop who said it was a good 3 mile walk out over boggy ground and thick heather to get to the point to get close enough for photos.

We would have gone up last weekend but it was wet and wind, a shame but we hope they may come back next year.

As for the birds, last Thursday i saw three Guillemot in Scalloway harbour which i thought was early and Helen Moncrief (RSPB) noted on Monday a number had also come back to the cliffs, the earliest date yet.

On Monday a quick tour of Sandwick revealed that the Killdeer was in the usual field and never moved for 45 mins. 

Lapwing (38) Turnstone (88) Redshank (46) Snipe (4) Ringed Plover (16) Golden Plover (78) Curlew (8) Purple sandpiper (6) Barnacle Goose, Greylag (136) Redwing (6) Twite (12) Starling (50+) Sparrow (50+) Blackbird (8) Red Throated Diver (3 Sanick) Fulmar, GtBB, Herring Gull, Rock Dove (32), Merlin, Raven (6) Hoddie (8) Shag (8) LT Duck (2) Mallard (8) Teal (4) Common Gull (5)

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Monday 28 November 2016


The Killdeer was back in Sandwick on Wednesday but i didn't get chance to get down until it was going dark on the Friday night. I saw the wader briefly before a Merlin flew low over the field spooking the bird and it flew off south.

On the Saturday i arrived at the site to find Paul Bloomer looking at the bird at the east end of the field close to the pools.

I soon as i walked to the viewing point it flew off further away but in the same field. It was still giving good but distant views.

A Lapwing landed close by and chased the Killdeer back towards us. Starling and a Turnstone fed near by and they didn't seem to react to the Killdeer. Then the  Killdeer called a few times as it moved back to the pools.

The name Killdeer comes from its call

This is the third record for Shetland, we did see the previous Killdeer at Virkie back in 2008. The bird seemed to have paired up with a Ringed Plover and stayed eleven months. Like the Sandwick bird this one seem to favour an area with pools.

Adult birds, like this Sandwick one has a bright orange eye ring and rump, it has a white chest with two black ring bands. It has a largest tail, dark brown wings, it has a dark thick bill. Male and female are similar in appearance.

It nests in Alaska and northern Canada, preferring drier sites at this time but moving to wetter coastal areas outside the breeding season

They feed on insects and this one moved similar to Ringed Plover in short steps often stopping to listen. After a bout of feeding it would find a sheltered spot and often become almost invisible as it sat among mud heaps or straw.

Friday 25 November 2016

Killer move

Having missed out on the Killdeer by a day we spent time around Sandwick on Saturday and managed to record the following:



Greylag (166) Golden Plover (56) Ringed Plover (62) Turnstone (47) Redshank (6) Curlew (4) Snipe (12), Jack snipe (1),  Purple Sandpiper (6) Oystercatcher (2) Lapwing (18) Meadow pipit (26) Starling (50) House Sparrow (40+) Blackbird (30+ ) Redwing (20+) Fieldfare (4) Rock Pipit (12) Mallard (6) Robin (2) Long Tailed Duck (6) Shag (18) Eider (20) Rock Dove (16) Herring Gull (12) Gt BB (8) Common Gull (3) Fulmar (30) Black Guillemot (6)  Twite (12) Raven (4) Hoddie (12)

On the Sunday we also managed to see Dolphin (5) although at a distance, we saw them jumping out of the water and moving very fast out of the bay, couldn't identify the species at that range. The usual Porpoise (10) also seen in the bay.

Also the Selkies resting on the jetty. Further north people saw Humpback and Killer Whales

On the Sunday the weather was equally good so we went south to Grutness where Long Tailed Duck (6) Black Guillemot (4) Shag (8) Mallard (6) Teal (4) Sanderling (22) Turnstone (8) Ringed Plover (2) Gt BB, Herring Gull, Fulmar, Rock pipit, Meadow pipit all present but no unusual species.

Its interesting that we are finding more and more Blackbird's with white feathers in Shetland, this one at Sandlodge. Perhaps in Blackbirds the white feather show more against their normally black/ brown colouring.

This condition is known as Albinism and is commoner than first thought, it is usually inherited but the amount of white can vary considerably. It normally the male Blackbird that are affected and only occasionally females.

Other birds such as House Sparrow are also affected,  but a photo appeared on facebook the other day of an almost white Water Rail found in the north mainland, a very striking bird.

I walked round St Ninian's Isle the other day in superb weather, i was photographing Landscapes so no photos but did come across the following:

SE Owl, Snow Bunting, Jack Snipe (2) Common Snipe (12) Gt Northern Diver (3) Long Tailed Duck (8) Rock Pipit (15) Gt BB Gull (49) Fulmar, Kittiwake, Common Gull, Wren, Sanderling, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Starling, Redshank, Whooper Swan (3 Over) Lapwing, Hoodie, Raven, Twite, Blackbird, Herring Gull, Meadow Pipit, Black Guillemot, Shag

Just a few days ago the Killdeer re-appeared in the same field as before so hope to see the bird this weekend.

Still time to order your Shetland canvas in time for Christmas at